When you look at news about entrepreneurs, you might fall into the trap of believing business success is defined by how large an empire you can create. Our culture glorifies multi-million dollar sales and fast growth. But what if that doesn’t fit your ideal business or lifestyle?
Shortly after I started my first business (integrated marketing communications) in 1989, I was at an MBA alumni event. All anyone wanted to know was how many employees I had, as if that was the measure of my success.
I found this kind of ironic because it was the start of the last great recession and most of them were working for Fortune 100 corporations in the midst of “streamlining” their operations.
I was quite happy with the fact that I had no employees and wasn’t planning on adding any.
Why add over-head when your business model doesn’t need it? Besides, if I had an office to go to everyday, I couldn’t make a living in my pajamas when I felt like it.
Whether you’re just thinking of starting your first business, or you’re already an entrepreneur, it’s worth thinking about how you define your own business success. It might be all about how much money you make, but perhaps not!
It’s all about creating your ideal business and lifestyle, whatever that means to you!
When you aren’t focused exclusively on money, you actually open up more possibilities for the kind of work you do and what type of lifestyle you enjoy. When my home staging training company was growing exponentially in 2006 and 2007, I got caught up in the idea of earning a million dollars in one year. It was within my grasp considering there were months when I made just under 6 figures in a single 30-day period.
The more I focused on that million dollar target, the less passion I had for what I was doing.
One of the things I get the most personal satisfaction from is the difference I make in people’s lives when I help them move forward in a way they never thought possible. When I’m focused on achieving my mission, I’m fulfilled.
Earning enough money to put my kid through college, build up my retirement savings, and live in a nice home without worrying about money are all important to me.
But when is enough, enough?
Not chasing all these expensive trinkets and toys gives me much more freedom because my cost of living is lower.
When I focused on hitting a million bucks in sales, it really sucked the joy out of what I was doing. I told my virtual assistants (I run an international business with no employees) that they’d each get a new MacBook Pro if we hit a million. I quickly realized I was way more excited about giving them that “prize” than I was about the sales themselves!
I also noticed that one of the things I value most — my free time — was rapidly disappearing.
The bigger my business got, the more people I needed on my team. I established project management and team collaboration systems and it became harder to get simple things done. Now I had to follow a “system” so that everyone was “in the loop,” instead of just having an idea and running with it, as I was more accustomed to doing.
Systems are important (and I’ll be teaching you about the ones I use) especially during periods of rapid growth, but I believe that if you’re a natural-born entrepreneur, they can also feel stifling.
As I delegated more projects to different people, my time and attention became increasingly fragmented.
At multiple points on any project, I had to give the next steps, changes or approvals. This meant I was always jumping back and forth from one thing to another, with my energies scattered in many directions.
I was losing my freedom to concentrate on a single project for a day or week— which is something I actually enjoy!
These are just some of the examples of what can happen when your goals aren’t aligned with your ideal business and lifestyle. So consider what’s important to you and what your true definition of success is, instead of getting caught up in the entrepreneurial version of keeping up with “The Joneses.”
While there’s certainly an ego boost attached to being featured as one of the fastest growing companies, having a big building with your name on it, or being able to say you employ hundreds of people, consider whether this will give you the lifestyle you want.
What about the fancy cars and mansions?
If you’re looking for a get-rich-quick scheme, or lots of talk about fast cars and fancy homes, this is probably not the right place for you.
I do believe in being well-paid for what we do, and I’m not embarrassed by what I earn. I teach others how to do the same, but I don’t view wealth as the greatest measure of success. Plus, I know from experience that the single-minded pursuit of money doesn’t guarantee happiness, meaning, or purpose.
Please share your comments and observations about how you choose to define success. I hope to create a supportive community where we can all learn from— and inspire— each other to have our own ideal business and lifestyle.